Commentary Magazine


Topic: G.O.P.

Wishing Thinking, Again, by the Gray Lady

There is a whole genre of New York Times front-page articles that can be called “wishful thinking by the left.” These pieces usually allege that some bad thing happening on the right — dissension, racism, etc. — but never quite get around to providing many (sometimes any) evidence thereof. Its “G.O.P. and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel” is precisely this sort of piece.

You’d think the voluminous polling showing that conservatives and evangelicals support Israel to a much greater degree than do liberals and nonbelievers would cause the ostensible reporters to rethink their premise. The gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats is apparent to everyone who has looked at this issue — except the Times reporters. And indeed, the only example the reporters can come up with on the Republican side is Rand Paul. No mention that it was exclusively Democrats who signed the Gaza 54 letter. No whiff that it was Republicans, led by Rep. Peter King, who went after Obama’s tepid support for Israel during the flotilla incident. No suggestion that it was Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer who pulled their punches while Obama condemned Israel for building in its capital. The real story, of course, is that Democrats’ support for Israel has been declining to an alarming degree and that the left is quite upset when groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel point this out.

In short, the Times story is bunk. The fact that there are so many anti-Israel Democrats (e.g., Joe Sestak, Mary Jo Kilroy, Kathy Dahlkemper) who lost is undiluted good news for Israel. The fact that exuberant friends of Israel like King will hold committee chairmanships is reason for Israel’s friends to celebrate. And the election of senators like Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio, and Dan Coats who have been boisterous defenders of the Jewish state and critics of the administration’s anemic approach toward Iran is more reason for Israel’s friends to cheer. In other words, Israel would be lucky to have many more “mixed blessings” like the 2010 midterms.

There is a whole genre of New York Times front-page articles that can be called “wishful thinking by the left.” These pieces usually allege that some bad thing happening on the right — dissension, racism, etc. — but never quite get around to providing many (sometimes any) evidence thereof. Its “G.O.P. and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel” is precisely this sort of piece.

You’d think the voluminous polling showing that conservatives and evangelicals support Israel to a much greater degree than do liberals and nonbelievers would cause the ostensible reporters to rethink their premise. The gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats is apparent to everyone who has looked at this issue — except the Times reporters. And indeed, the only example the reporters can come up with on the Republican side is Rand Paul. No mention that it was exclusively Democrats who signed the Gaza 54 letter. No whiff that it was Republicans, led by Rep. Peter King, who went after Obama’s tepid support for Israel during the flotilla incident. No suggestion that it was Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer who pulled their punches while Obama condemned Israel for building in its capital. The real story, of course, is that Democrats’ support for Israel has been declining to an alarming degree and that the left is quite upset when groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel point this out.

In short, the Times story is bunk. The fact that there are so many anti-Israel Democrats (e.g., Joe Sestak, Mary Jo Kilroy, Kathy Dahlkemper) who lost is undiluted good news for Israel. The fact that exuberant friends of Israel like King will hold committee chairmanships is reason for Israel’s friends to celebrate. And the election of senators like Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio, and Dan Coats who have been boisterous defenders of the Jewish state and critics of the administration’s anemic approach toward Iran is more reason for Israel’s friends to cheer. In other words, Israel would be lucky to have many more “mixed blessings” like the 2010 midterms.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

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What’s the Palin Rationale?

Back in September, Sarah Palin had this to say about a presidential run:

A reason to run is if nobody else were to step up with the solutions that are needed to get the economy back on the right track and to be so committed to our national security that they are going to do all that they can, including fighting those on the extreme left who seem to want to dismantle some of our national security tools that we have in place.

Now, in an upcoming New York Times Magazine piece, she let’s on that she is engaged in internal discussions about a run, and there really aren’t many policy differences among potential GOP candidates:

Palin went on to say that there weren’t meaningful differences in policy among the field of G.O.P. hopefuls “but that in fact there’s more to the presidency than that” and that her decision would involve evaluating whether she could bring unique qualities to the table. “Yes, the organization would have to change,” Palin said during an hourlong phone conversation.

“I’d have to bring in more people — more people who are trustworthy … I know that a hurdle I would have to cross, that some other potential candidates wouldn’t have to cross right out of the chute, is proving my record. That’s the most frustrating thing for me — the warped and perverted description of my record and what I’ve accomplished over the last two decades. It’s been much more perplexing to me than where the lamestream media has wanted to go about my personal life.”

This raises a few questions. First is a variation on the Roger Mudd to Ted Kennedy question: if the policy differences aren’t great, what is the rationale for her candidacy, which she acknowledges has hurdles that other candidates don’t have? There may be some good reasons for her to run anyway, but she will have to justify it. Second, why hasn’t she she brought on “more trustworthy” people already? Frankly, her pronouncements on foreign policy have been rock-solid and, to a large extent, ahead of the pack of Obama’s conservative critics, but where’s the same level of seriousness on domestic policy? And where’s the strategy to reach out to skeptics rather than simply forge an alliance with the base? Third, if she keeps using phrases like “lamestream media,” that suggests she is still in victim mode and feed-the-base mode, rather than expanding her reach and elevating her stature. To the faithful, that’s a phrase that warms the heart, but to others, it is an eye-roller. Finally, if she is fed up with obsession over her personal life, why is she doing a show about her life in Alaska that is all about her family, nature outings, etc.?

All of this points to the promise and the peril of her candidacy. She can command attention, she has a degree of self-awareness about the challenges, and yet she has trouble leaving her comfort zone. Fundamentally, the questions for her and for her party remain: can she bring something to the race that other candidates can’t, and do her assets outweigh her liabilities? Stay tuned.

Back in September, Sarah Palin had this to say about a presidential run:

A reason to run is if nobody else were to step up with the solutions that are needed to get the economy back on the right track and to be so committed to our national security that they are going to do all that they can, including fighting those on the extreme left who seem to want to dismantle some of our national security tools that we have in place.

Now, in an upcoming New York Times Magazine piece, she let’s on that she is engaged in internal discussions about a run, and there really aren’t many policy differences among potential GOP candidates:

Palin went on to say that there weren’t meaningful differences in policy among the field of G.O.P. hopefuls “but that in fact there’s more to the presidency than that” and that her decision would involve evaluating whether she could bring unique qualities to the table. “Yes, the organization would have to change,” Palin said during an hourlong phone conversation.

“I’d have to bring in more people — more people who are trustworthy … I know that a hurdle I would have to cross, that some other potential candidates wouldn’t have to cross right out of the chute, is proving my record. That’s the most frustrating thing for me — the warped and perverted description of my record and what I’ve accomplished over the last two decades. It’s been much more perplexing to me than where the lamestream media has wanted to go about my personal life.”

This raises a few questions. First is a variation on the Roger Mudd to Ted Kennedy question: if the policy differences aren’t great, what is the rationale for her candidacy, which she acknowledges has hurdles that other candidates don’t have? There may be some good reasons for her to run anyway, but she will have to justify it. Second, why hasn’t she she brought on “more trustworthy” people already? Frankly, her pronouncements on foreign policy have been rock-solid and, to a large extent, ahead of the pack of Obama’s conservative critics, but where’s the same level of seriousness on domestic policy? And where’s the strategy to reach out to skeptics rather than simply forge an alliance with the base? Third, if she keeps using phrases like “lamestream media,” that suggests she is still in victim mode and feed-the-base mode, rather than expanding her reach and elevating her stature. To the faithful, that’s a phrase that warms the heart, but to others, it is an eye-roller. Finally, if she is fed up with obsession over her personal life, why is she doing a show about her life in Alaska that is all about her family, nature outings, etc.?

All of this points to the promise and the peril of her candidacy. She can command attention, she has a degree of self-awareness about the challenges, and yet she has trouble leaving her comfort zone. Fundamentally, the questions for her and for her party remain: can she bring something to the race that other candidates can’t, and do her assets outweigh her liabilities? Stay tuned.

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Mean and Ignorant!

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

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Brooks and the Tea Party

David Brooks steps forward to defend the Tea Party movement. He writes:

Many of my liberal friends are convinced that the Republican Party has a death wish. It is sprinting to the right-most fever swamps of American life. It will end up alienating the moderate voters it needs to win elections. There’s only one problem with this theory. There is no evidence to support it. …

I asked the election guru Charlie Cook if there were signs that the Tea Party was scaring away the independents. “I haven’t seen any,” he replied. I asked another Hall of Fame pollster, Peter Hart, if there were Republican or independent voters so alarmed by the Tea Party that they might alter their votes. He ran the numbers and found very few potential defectors.

Brooks is dead on when he observes that “as the Tea Party has surged, so has the G.O.P.” This does not mean that every Tea Party candidate is going to win in the general election, and some have serious issues. (Although, as Brooks notes, even a “weak” candidate like Sharron Angle is deadlocked with the majority leader.) But is that the standard for success in American politics — that you win every race? Certainly not.

Brooks then feels compelled — this is the New York Times, you know — to deride the movement for “some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil.” The evidence for this? He doesn’t say, but he does chide others for “untethered assertions.” It is hard for pundits, I think, to cope with a grassroots movement that has no single leader and no official platform; while individuals who seek to associate themselves with the movement may be subject to these faults, is a movement of millions, then, guilty as a group? Are millions of Americans playing the victim card? And by the way, that list of defects does aptly describe one political figure: the president.

In the end, Brooks backtracks, claiming that “the Tea Party doesn’t matter.” It’s the economy and objection to “one-party Democratic control” that are the deciding factors. Well, the Tea Party is either the key to the GOP’s success or irrelevant — take your pick. From my vantage point, it is both a result of one-party Democratic rule and the best thing to happen to the GOP since Ronald Reagan. That doesn’t mean its candidates will all win, but when the GOP picks up oodles of seats, much of the credit will go to the Tea Partiers.

David Brooks steps forward to defend the Tea Party movement. He writes:

Many of my liberal friends are convinced that the Republican Party has a death wish. It is sprinting to the right-most fever swamps of American life. It will end up alienating the moderate voters it needs to win elections. There’s only one problem with this theory. There is no evidence to support it. …

I asked the election guru Charlie Cook if there were signs that the Tea Party was scaring away the independents. “I haven’t seen any,” he replied. I asked another Hall of Fame pollster, Peter Hart, if there were Republican or independent voters so alarmed by the Tea Party that they might alter their votes. He ran the numbers and found very few potential defectors.

Brooks is dead on when he observes that “as the Tea Party has surged, so has the G.O.P.” This does not mean that every Tea Party candidate is going to win in the general election, and some have serious issues. (Although, as Brooks notes, even a “weak” candidate like Sharron Angle is deadlocked with the majority leader.) But is that the standard for success in American politics — that you win every race? Certainly not.

Brooks then feels compelled — this is the New York Times, you know — to deride the movement for “some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil.” The evidence for this? He doesn’t say, but he does chide others for “untethered assertions.” It is hard for pundits, I think, to cope with a grassroots movement that has no single leader and no official platform; while individuals who seek to associate themselves with the movement may be subject to these faults, is a movement of millions, then, guilty as a group? Are millions of Americans playing the victim card? And by the way, that list of defects does aptly describe one political figure: the president.

In the end, Brooks backtracks, claiming that “the Tea Party doesn’t matter.” It’s the economy and objection to “one-party Democratic control” that are the deciding factors. Well, the Tea Party is either the key to the GOP’s success or irrelevant — take your pick. From my vantage point, it is both a result of one-party Democratic rule and the best thing to happen to the GOP since Ronald Reagan. That doesn’t mean its candidates will all win, but when the GOP picks up oodles of seats, much of the credit will go to the Tea Partiers.

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David Brooks vs. Straw Men

David Brooks is critical of an op-ed by AEI’s Arthur C. Brooks and Rep. Paul Ryan. The Times‘s Brooks is upset that the two conservatives don’t appreciate that there is a tradition of “limited but energetic” government, not simply “limited government.” Brooks is perhaps confusing Paul Ryan with Rand Paul.

Neither Ryan nor Brooks is a libertarian. And their op-ed rejects extreme notions (e.g., abolishing social security). Their sole plea is this:

[F]inding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

In fact, they make it clear that they are not for “no government”:

Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma’s Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, “The Road to Serfdom,” reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

David Brooks has selected an odd target for his criticism. Ryan is among the most innovative reformers, one who has ideas on everything from education to health care. Is he really the example that Brooks is looking for? Brooks sounds the alarm:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.

Well, he may be comforted by reading Ryan’s Roadmap. It strikes me as quite energetic.

Two additional points. Brooks claims that conservatism is supposed to be “nonideological and context driven.” Most modern conservatives believe it certainly is an ideology (although distinct from partisan loyalty). As for context, it is David, not Arthur, Brooks who seems to have lost track of where we are. We have experienced a gigantic spend-a-thon and a spasm of liberal statism. Ryan and Arthur Brooks are calling for a course correction. It seems an exceptionally timely adjustment.

David Brooks is critical of an op-ed by AEI’s Arthur C. Brooks and Rep. Paul Ryan. The Times‘s Brooks is upset that the two conservatives don’t appreciate that there is a tradition of “limited but energetic” government, not simply “limited government.” Brooks is perhaps confusing Paul Ryan with Rand Paul.

Neither Ryan nor Brooks is a libertarian. And their op-ed rejects extreme notions (e.g., abolishing social security). Their sole plea is this:

[F]inding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

In fact, they make it clear that they are not for “no government”:

Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma’s Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, “The Road to Serfdom,” reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

David Brooks has selected an odd target for his criticism. Ryan is among the most innovative reformers, one who has ideas on everything from education to health care. Is he really the example that Brooks is looking for? Brooks sounds the alarm:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.

Well, he may be comforted by reading Ryan’s Roadmap. It strikes me as quite energetic.

Two additional points. Brooks claims that conservatism is supposed to be “nonideological and context driven.” Most modern conservatives believe it certainly is an ideology (although distinct from partisan loyalty). As for context, it is David, not Arthur, Brooks who seems to have lost track of where we are. We have experienced a gigantic spend-a-thon and a spasm of liberal statism. Ryan and Arthur Brooks are calling for a course correction. It seems an exceptionally timely adjustment.

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Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

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Tracking “Jewish Money”

It’s not often that bald-faced, unashamed anti-Semitism is advertised by supposedly mainstream politicos. But these are no ordinary times. This report explains:

Mike Grimm, a G.O.P challenger for Mike McMahon’s Congressional seat, took in over $200,000 in his last filing.

But in an effort to show that Grimm lacks support among voters in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the McMahon campaign compiled a list of Jewish donors to Grimm and provided it to the Politicker.

The file, labeled “Grimm Jewish Money Q2,” for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

“Where is Grimm’s money coming from,” said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon’s campaign spokesman. “There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees.”

Jewish money. Gosh, even Walt and Mearsheimer are smart enough to use the “Israel lobby” rather than “Jewish money” to incite the public. Nelson immediately began back-peddling, confessing that “she did not know exactly how the finance team knew who was Jewish and who was not,” and bizarrely arguing that “I don’t think ethnicity matters.”

It was not enough to save her job (or most likely, her career). Both Nelson and the staffer who put together the list were canned and McMahon issued a heartfelt apology.

The incident is nevertheless telling. The multiplicity of incidents — like the White House press corps’ indulging Helen Thomas and the dual-loyalty canard that is bandied about by left-leaning bloggers and anonymous White House sources — is becoming hard to ignore. It suggests that the trip wire that snares racists and misogynists is curiously nowhere to be found when it comes to anti-Semitism.

America is not Europe and anti-Semitism is not yet fashionable or commonplace in “polite” company. (At least Nelson was canned rather than lionized and Thomas was finally put out to pasture.) But what was unheard of a few years ago is now popping up with alarming frequency. Peddlers of virulent anti-Semitism now appear in mainstream publications and their arguments are entertained as legitimate. That should concern us all.

Perhaps the Jew-bashing filmmakers and pundits will censor themselves when the public and their peers stop frequenting their movies or reading their bile-soaked columns. And when politicians and staffers are convinced that anti-Semitism is as unacceptable as racism, they too will refrain from fanning the flames of Jew-hatred.

It’s not often that bald-faced, unashamed anti-Semitism is advertised by supposedly mainstream politicos. But these are no ordinary times. This report explains:

Mike Grimm, a G.O.P challenger for Mike McMahon’s Congressional seat, took in over $200,000 in his last filing.

But in an effort to show that Grimm lacks support among voters in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the McMahon campaign compiled a list of Jewish donors to Grimm and provided it to the Politicker.

The file, labeled “Grimm Jewish Money Q2,” for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

“Where is Grimm’s money coming from,” said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon’s campaign spokesman. “There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees.”

Jewish money. Gosh, even Walt and Mearsheimer are smart enough to use the “Israel lobby” rather than “Jewish money” to incite the public. Nelson immediately began back-peddling, confessing that “she did not know exactly how the finance team knew who was Jewish and who was not,” and bizarrely arguing that “I don’t think ethnicity matters.”

It was not enough to save her job (or most likely, her career). Both Nelson and the staffer who put together the list were canned and McMahon issued a heartfelt apology.

The incident is nevertheless telling. The multiplicity of incidents — like the White House press corps’ indulging Helen Thomas and the dual-loyalty canard that is bandied about by left-leaning bloggers and anonymous White House sources — is becoming hard to ignore. It suggests that the trip wire that snares racists and misogynists is curiously nowhere to be found when it comes to anti-Semitism.

America is not Europe and anti-Semitism is not yet fashionable or commonplace in “polite” company. (At least Nelson was canned rather than lionized and Thomas was finally put out to pasture.) But what was unheard of a few years ago is now popping up with alarming frequency. Peddlers of virulent anti-Semitism now appear in mainstream publications and their arguments are entertained as legitimate. That should concern us all.

Perhaps the Jew-bashing filmmakers and pundits will censor themselves when the public and their peers stop frequenting their movies or reading their bile-soaked columns. And when politicians and staffers are convinced that anti-Semitism is as unacceptable as racism, they too will refrain from fanning the flames of Jew-hatred.

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Obama Destroys the Dream of a Center-Left Coalition

I won’t spoil the very clever fictional construct that David Brooks uses to make his point in today’s column, but his conclusion bears repeating:

Surveys showed public opinion drifting rightward on issue after issue: gun control, abortion, global warming and the role of government. Far from leading Americans, Democrats were repelling them. Between 2008 and 2010 the share of voters who considered the Democrats too liberal surged from 39 percent to 49 percent, according to Gallup surveys.

Prospects for the 2010 election are grim. Election guru Charlie Cook suspects the G.O.P. will retake the House. N.P.R. polled voters in the 60 most competitive House districts currently held by Democrats. Democrats trail Republicans in those districts, on average, by 5 percentage points. Independent voters in the districts favor Republicans by an average of 18 percentage points.

By 57 percent to 37 percent, voters in these districts embrace the proposition that “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”

Instead of building faith in government, the events of 2009 and 2010 further undermined it. An absurdly low 6 percent of Americans acknowledge that the stimulus package created jobs, according to a New York Times/CBS survey.

I’ll quibble with “absurdly” if he means irrationally, but he’s accurate on the rest. And his warning is equally on point:

Some Kool-Aid sippers on the left say the problem is that Republicans have better messaging (somehow John Boehner became magically charismatic to independents). Others say the shift to the right is a product of bad economic times. … But the big story is that liberals have failed to create a governing center-left majority. If they can’t do it in circumstances like these, when will they ever?

There is a self-fulfilling quality to the left’s crack-up. The rush to the left and “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality was premised on the view that the window of opportunity to accomplish the liberal agenda was brief. But in piling on one big-government proposal after another, Obama actually shortened the window and gave rise to the conservative resurgence, which threatens to rip up the one significant “achievement” (ObamaCare) jammed through in the first half of his term. (Sigh, yes, the halfway mark is in sight.) Obama might have prolonged his window of opportunity, kept the conservatives at bay, and preserved many of his party’s seats. But that would have required compromise and moderation in pursuit of his desired remaking of the economy and vast expansion of the federal government.

It was the road not taken — the road many hopeful pundits, including Brooks, were convinced Obama would take. The president has proved to be a lot less moderate, a lot less politically savvy, and as a result, a lot less successful than his boosters had imagined. He was nevertheless an invaluable aid in discrediting liberal statism.

I won’t spoil the very clever fictional construct that David Brooks uses to make his point in today’s column, but his conclusion bears repeating:

Surveys showed public opinion drifting rightward on issue after issue: gun control, abortion, global warming and the role of government. Far from leading Americans, Democrats were repelling them. Between 2008 and 2010 the share of voters who considered the Democrats too liberal surged from 39 percent to 49 percent, according to Gallup surveys.

Prospects for the 2010 election are grim. Election guru Charlie Cook suspects the G.O.P. will retake the House. N.P.R. polled voters in the 60 most competitive House districts currently held by Democrats. Democrats trail Republicans in those districts, on average, by 5 percentage points. Independent voters in the districts favor Republicans by an average of 18 percentage points.

By 57 percent to 37 percent, voters in these districts embrace the proposition that “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”

Instead of building faith in government, the events of 2009 and 2010 further undermined it. An absurdly low 6 percent of Americans acknowledge that the stimulus package created jobs, according to a New York Times/CBS survey.

I’ll quibble with “absurdly” if he means irrationally, but he’s accurate on the rest. And his warning is equally on point:

Some Kool-Aid sippers on the left say the problem is that Republicans have better messaging (somehow John Boehner became magically charismatic to independents). Others say the shift to the right is a product of bad economic times. … But the big story is that liberals have failed to create a governing center-left majority. If they can’t do it in circumstances like these, when will they ever?

There is a self-fulfilling quality to the left’s crack-up. The rush to the left and “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality was premised on the view that the window of opportunity to accomplish the liberal agenda was brief. But in piling on one big-government proposal after another, Obama actually shortened the window and gave rise to the conservative resurgence, which threatens to rip up the one significant “achievement” (ObamaCare) jammed through in the first half of his term. (Sigh, yes, the halfway mark is in sight.) Obama might have prolonged his window of opportunity, kept the conservatives at bay, and preserved many of his party’s seats. But that would have required compromise and moderation in pursuit of his desired remaking of the economy and vast expansion of the federal government.

It was the road not taken — the road many hopeful pundits, including Brooks, were convinced Obama would take. The president has proved to be a lot less moderate, a lot less politically savvy, and as a result, a lot less successful than his boosters had imagined. He was nevertheless an invaluable aid in discrediting liberal statism.

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The Gray Lady Is Stunned: Black Republicans!

The New York Times is caught by surprise. “Unanticipated,” (by whom? liberal reporters?) the Gray Lady calls the discovery that “at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.” The Times hastens to assure us that this is Obama’s doing — inspiring and trailblazing for Republicans — but hastens to cast gloom and doom on their prospects:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Well,  far down in the report, the Times lets on that these candidates actually like the Tea Parties and are getting support from supposedly racist, know-nothings (oh, oops, now the media meme tells us they are upscale, over-educated and mainstream Republicans):

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

And what’s more, African Americans, the Times discovers, are attracted to conservative social positions. (“There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.”)

If a batch of these candidates wins — with support from the Tea Parties, no less — what will the liberal chattering class do then? (Cognitive dissonance alert!) You can anticipate the spin. These are not “authentic” African-American leaders, they will say. Harry Reid may point out that they don’t sound Black. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be properly recast as the Liberal Congressional Black Caucus (unless the newcomers want to join, which will bring howls of protest from the liberals, who wouldn’t want their leftism to be diluted). But the “Republicans don’t like Blacks” meme (propounded by none other than the hapless Michael Steele) will take a bruising. After all, they can’t all be “inauthentic,” can they?

The New York Times is caught by surprise. “Unanticipated,” (by whom? liberal reporters?) the Gray Lady calls the discovery that “at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.” The Times hastens to assure us that this is Obama’s doing — inspiring and trailblazing for Republicans — but hastens to cast gloom and doom on their prospects:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Well,  far down in the report, the Times lets on that these candidates actually like the Tea Parties and are getting support from supposedly racist, know-nothings (oh, oops, now the media meme tells us they are upscale, over-educated and mainstream Republicans):

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

And what’s more, African Americans, the Times discovers, are attracted to conservative social positions. (“There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.”)

If a batch of these candidates wins — with support from the Tea Parties, no less — what will the liberal chattering class do then? (Cognitive dissonance alert!) You can anticipate the spin. These are not “authentic” African-American leaders, they will say. Harry Reid may point out that they don’t sound Black. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be properly recast as the Liberal Congressional Black Caucus (unless the newcomers want to join, which will bring howls of protest from the liberals, who wouldn’t want their leftism to be diluted). But the “Republicans don’t like Blacks” meme (propounded by none other than the hapless Michael Steele) will take a bruising. After all, they can’t all be “inauthentic,” can they?

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Would the White House Fall for This?

Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:

It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.

Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or  wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”

As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.

Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:

It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.

Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or  wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”

As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.

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He Was for It Before He Was Against It

Paul Krugman’s opinion of the Senate filibuster depends on who might use it. Today he is against it.

America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option …

And last Friday, he was against it:

Beyond that, we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.

In 2005, however, when the Senate had a Republican majority, Krugman thought that only the filibuster saved us from government by extremists: “But the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law.” (h/t James Taranto)

Krugman’s intellectual inconsistency is at least consistent with that of his employer. On November 28, 2004, with Republicans in the White House and running Congress, the filibuster was a fundamental part of the Founders’ plan, according to the Times:

The Republicans see the filibuster as an annoying obstacle. But it is actually one of the checks and balances that the founders, who worried greatly about concentration of power, built into our system of government. It is also, right now, the main means by which the 48 percent of Americans who voted for John Kerry can influence federal policy. People who call themselves conservatives should find a way of achieving their goals without declaring war on one of the oldest traditions in American democracy.

But on March 1, 2009, with Democrats running everything in Washington, the Times had changed its mind, calling the filibuster a “self-inflicted wound.”

… the use of the filibuster as an everyday tool of legislation stands the idea of democratic government on its head. Instead of majority rule in the Senate, the tyranny of the minority prevails.

The filibuster is merely a Senate rule, not part of the Constitution. But the Founders did conceive of the Senate as “the saucer in which to cool the coffee.” And the filibuster facilitates by giving the minority increased power to affect legislation in ways that it favors, moving the legislation towards the center. What the Times and Krugman were attempting to justify in 2004 and 2005, however, was the use of the filibuster to prevent a vote on judicial nominations. And while legislation can be compromised, nominations cannot. The nominee is either appointed or he is not. So when the minority uses the filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on a nominee, it is, indeed, a “tyranny of the minority” and fundamentally undemocratic.

Paul Krugman’s opinion of the Senate filibuster depends on who might use it. Today he is against it.

America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option …

And last Friday, he was against it:

Beyond that, we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.

In 2005, however, when the Senate had a Republican majority, Krugman thought that only the filibuster saved us from government by extremists: “But the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law.” (h/t James Taranto)

Krugman’s intellectual inconsistency is at least consistent with that of his employer. On November 28, 2004, with Republicans in the White House and running Congress, the filibuster was a fundamental part of the Founders’ plan, according to the Times:

The Republicans see the filibuster as an annoying obstacle. But it is actually one of the checks and balances that the founders, who worried greatly about concentration of power, built into our system of government. It is also, right now, the main means by which the 48 percent of Americans who voted for John Kerry can influence federal policy. People who call themselves conservatives should find a way of achieving their goals without declaring war on one of the oldest traditions in American democracy.

But on March 1, 2009, with Democrats running everything in Washington, the Times had changed its mind, calling the filibuster a “self-inflicted wound.”

… the use of the filibuster as an everyday tool of legislation stands the idea of democratic government on its head. Instead of majority rule in the Senate, the tyranny of the minority prevails.

The filibuster is merely a Senate rule, not part of the Constitution. But the Founders did conceive of the Senate as “the saucer in which to cool the coffee.” And the filibuster facilitates by giving the minority increased power to affect legislation in ways that it favors, moving the legislation towards the center. What the Times and Krugman were attempting to justify in 2004 and 2005, however, was the use of the filibuster to prevent a vote on judicial nominations. And while legislation can be compromised, nominations cannot. The nominee is either appointed or he is not. So when the minority uses the filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on a nominee, it is, indeed, a “tyranny of the minority” and fundamentally undemocratic.

Read Less




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